Round 2: The Core SaaS New Techstars Companies Should Consider

Note: This article is long. Here’s how you should use this article, read the first five paragraphs first, then scan the table below. Any SaaS products you don’t recognize in the table, see the justification for why we used them below. Why is this article long? Because I refuse to do listicles for clickbait. I’d love your feedback.

Mashable Presents: A Cleaner Future featuring DroneSeed

When DroneSeed was accepted to Techstars, we knew our next three months as a small team would hold more opportunities than we could physically manage.

In order to Do More Faster, we identified what we call internally our Core SaaS tools to optimize and reduce time on setting up meetings, calendars, mail, expenses, and task management. Primarily for the purposes of a startup on fundraising, sales, and product development. (This is called an ERP, Enterprise Resource Planning, by large businesses).

This is as an update to an open letter I wrote a year ago to companies that just got into Techstars, another program, or any others that have just a few months of runway to crush it or fail. It took us time to figure these out the hard way. We’ve taken feedback from Techstars Seattle 2017 and our own learning to update this list. Below are the services we found essential based on those experiences.

But first…two principles you’ll see throughout the article:

1. Reduce clicks to get better results

Our philosophy to using SaaS products mirrors Amazon’s analysis of purchasing. The more clicks required the less you or your investor will do it. Amazon famously pioneered this by relentlessly reducing the clicks required to purchase an item. Sales went up. Here’s how that works in our startup: If every time I send a link to our promo video I have to look it up in my Gmail from Lauren, the more I’ll get distracted by new emails and not get that extra email sent or I’ll send it way after its relevant. Opportunity lost. See below how we use Streak’s clips feature to solve for this.

2. Don’t suck at email

Communication is lifeblood. Interest is fickle, especially with investors. It’s not acceptable to suck at email. See Principle 1: Reduce Friction. Reply fast, hit inbox zero (if you can tell me how), hyper-communicate. See first steps here from Do More Faster on how NOT to suck at email. We work on this daily like you do. See below for the SaaS we use to be better.

The Core SaaS DroneSeed uses. We employ the following. I’ve covered the non-obvious first:

Name

Group

Description

~Monthly Pricing

Boomerang

Email/CRM

best email followup tool

4.99 per user -CEO/sales

Streak

Email/CRM

CRM via email, clips

39.00 per user

MixMax / Calendly

Online Calendar

Frictionless scheduling

9.00 per user -CEO/Sales

Conspire

Intro tool

Intros better than LinkedIn

free

CrunchBase Pro

Intro tool

Wikipedia of Investors/Co’s

29.00 per user -CEO only

Expensify

Accounting

Robots log expenses

5.00 per user

DocuSign

Contracts

Frictionless signing

10.00 per user -CEO only

Trello

Tasks

Task and team managing

free

GitHub

Tasks

Code and task managing

8.00 per user

Quickbooks

Accounting

Clean books

18.00

Google Drive

File Management

Docs in 1 place

9.00 per user up to 9

DocSend

File Management

Send decks for review

free

Total We Pay

~$300 / month all company

Seems like a lot of SaaS, eh? Well, in total, we pay about $300 per month. We think this is reasonable and has better features compared to the alternative of SAP, Oracle, Salesforce or even Microsoft products.

Note: If you just got into Techstars, nearly all the core SaaS products we use have Techstars connect perks with yearly discounts, sometimes 1-year free, etc. Get ahead by getting access to Techstars Connect as soon as possible before beginning program and getting organized. Your first two weeks are your craziest.

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Our Reviews & Why We Use These Products

Disclaimer: Some of these are Techstars companies. We don’t know the teams (but would like to!). These reviews are our own and we’ve received no compensation for them.

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EMAIL

BOOMERANG

Second Contact reminders via email

You will make connections to awesome people. They will be busy. 25–50 percent of the time they may require a second or third email to remind them to send something, make an introduction, etc. We haven’t found a better way than Boomerang to track these opportunities.

If no one responds to your email, you set boomerang to put the email back at the top of your gmail as an unread email in two to four days (you define the time period). Task management by inbox — done right. We don’t know of comparable products. Oh yeah, it’s got a lot of other features to.

STREAK

CRM System — Pick a CRM and use it. We use Streak.

We needed a CRM system. You will need one too. We suggest tracking three pipelines: Investors, Customers, and Potential Hires.

Example with investors: You need to record what their investment check size is and if they prefer convertible notes or SAFE’s. You should be meeting a LOT of investors and you cannot forget their check size and terms preference. If on the second meeting, you pitch a 100K investment and they only make 500K investments or more, you’ve just lost the opportunity or severely damaged credibility.

We like Excel because we can customize it to do anything. We also like management by inbox. Thus, we like Streak because it does both these things.

Another reason we like Streak is it has Snippets. Over and over you will need to send a forwardable describing your business. Same with the links to your promo video and relevant press articles or white papers. Reduce the friction by using clips. Set snippets to paste your list of links. It hangs out in your gmail next to the formatting icon. Click it, click the snippet you’ve saved such as “101 — investor links” and snippets then pastes your list of links into your email. Go pro and use hot typed phrases to trigger the same.

Lastly, we use ‘send later’ in Streak. We use this to time emails so they reach recipients when they’ll be read. Techstars companies send weekly updates to mentors and potential investors. All nine companies in our class did this, mostly on Monday at 8am. We sent on Tuesday or Wednesday at 7am so ours would get the most time and consideration. Also, not everyone is impressed by your work ethic and 3am emails. For some, it’s a red flag. See the book ReWork here on this topic. Use ‘send later’ instead.

Competitor CRM’s that are also loved:

HubSpot. From Victor at CuePath: I switched from Zoho CRM to HubSpot. Really loved their deal feature, which is like Trello column pipeline. Pro-tip: Pin the note with key info about the investor/customer, so it always pops up first when you want quick access to info before your call.

ONLINE CALENDAR

Make appointment times a one-step process, not “go-fish.”

Ever traded three to four emails just to find a time to meet? We couldn’t afford that. We also didn’t want to pay for an executive assistant. Each additional email that says “are you available between 2–4pm Wednesday?” increases the chance of losing the connection.

Instead, send an email with MixMax or Calendly. We haven’t used MixMax but hear great things. In both, everyone can see when you are available including VIP’s executive assistants who will love you. You can fill up your schedule quickly. In MixMax, there’s a slight advantage as your calendar is sent in the email and this removes one click and sends time slots in email (but this can go out of date). With Calendly, you follow a link to the online availability and the calendar is up to date.

Pro tip: When pointing people to your schedule link in emails, include language that says: “my schedule is accessible at the link below to find a time that works for us both.” Don’t act like a programmer primadonna. You’re asking people that are likely higher in the social strata than you to do executive assistant work. They’ll do it to maximize their time and avoid trading three emails, but keep it humble.

Pro tip 2: Block-off work periods each day. It’s not sexy to have a calendar that looks WAY too available.

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INTROS

CONSPIRE

Use it to ask for intros. It’s better than LinkedIn. It’s my #1 recommendation to startups fundraising. It’s a superpower.  

Here’s why: You’re looking for warm intros to investors and customers. You don’t know who in your network can make the intro or is the best warm intro. Use Conspire.

Conspire requests access to your emails and then analyzes who you email and how often. Yep, that’s invasive. But so is Gmail (which we love).

Using Conspire tells you everyone in your network who emails the contact you’re trying to reach and how frequently. For example, based on the signal bar on Conspire, I can see that I email Jenny Fielding at NYC Techstars a lot, and she’s in touch with Duncan. In addition, it looks like my fellow Techstars CEO Claus talked to Rob for fundraising or was invested in, and I might ask them how that process went for advice on Bullpen’s thesis.

Once you’ve found who you’re most comfortable asking, send a forwardable. If you’ve never written a forwardable, here’s how from Alex Iskold. This method is now standard etiquette in fundraising and reduces the clicks and increases the odds you’ll get a response.

DOCSEND

DocSend is amazing. We learned about it by participating at Jason Calacanis’ Founder University. It’s my #2 recommendation to founders fundraising.

Every investor asks for your deck and videos of your product prior to talking. Your deck will have valuable competitive intel. Investors DO send these to their competitive investments. For these reasons, we don’t like our deck or videos floating around. However, what we REALLY don’t like is NOT having investor conversations. We tried a one-pager to get meetings and it hurt us. We got fewer meetings.

Therefore, we now use DocSend with an expiring link and don’t allow downloading as a default. We send a “teaser deck” in a forwardable email prior to talking. We send a follow-up deck that’s longer after the meeting if advisable. DocSend tells you if a sent deck was opened, and gives you feedback on how much time investors spent on each slide. That’s amazing feedback to improve a deck. Don’t be surprised that investors spend less than three minutes per deck.

Above: whatever is on slide 23 got more time and attention than slide 7 and Jason was either interested or confused (and on slide 24 someone on his fantasy team probably scored and distracted him).

Pro tip: Load a presentation, then for every new investor create a new link with the investor name so you’ll know who is viewing. That’s why the above shows as “Jason.” This helps you follow-up shortly after they’ve read it. Super paranoid – put a footnote on each slide pg with the investor name and VC and Confidential (lots of effort).

CRUNCHBASE PRO

Crunchbase is the defacto way for startups to lookup investors, as well as track investments made in other companies. It’s like the Wikipedia of investments and info is crowdsourced so expectations of accuracy should be adjusted. Pro makes this easier and was beloved by Techstars Seattle 2017 across the board.

Use it to build a list of investors to contact. Lookup companies adjacent to your space and see who their investors are. Build a list of 50 or so investors by tracking if they’ve made multiple investments in companies adjacent (but not direct competitors).

Also use it to find investor references, see a pattern in their check size, or determine if they’re a fit at all (have they ever done a B2B investment? Do they say in their description “software only”).

DroneSeed used the free public version. The Pro version is loved because you can add more complex searches and there’s additional scripting to parse the outputs offline.

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Why I’m not including a section on Trello/Asana/Github.

Everyone has an opinion on Trello/Asana/Github. Your opinion may be correct. It may be ridiculous. Either way, you already know about it and if you don’t see this.

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EXPENSE REPORTING

Let the robots log expenses.

Nothing screws up team dynamics more than payroll and expenses. Seriously. People are regularly fired over expenses, OR employees walk away with serious misgivings. Companies regularly misstate their accounts because someone had 15–100k in expenses they hadn’t submitted yet. People are reluctant to put things on credit cards and slowing down product development because they feel they always forget to log the receipt.

Our favorite expense software is no longer (they were too good). Your options for photographing the receipt and turning the data entry into ‘not my problem’ are: Expensify and a few others detailed in a Quora post here. Make sure it maps to Quickbooks expense categories or your chosen accounting software. There’s far fewer friction points. The expense manager gets accurate cash position. The employee doesn’t spend hours sorting through a shoebox of receipts and tracking down visa statements for the one’s they lost.

QUICKBOOKS

You need Quickbooks.

If you raise from venture capital you will at some point get asked for 3 months of financials in the due diligence process. We use Quickbooks. So does nearly everyone else on the planet it seems (although there are alternatives). Keep your accounting costs low by using Quickbooks. Use it to track a budget versus actual.

Consider an accountant. If you struggle with your personal taxes then you need a business accountant. They will keep your books “clean” and at least semi-standard so you check the box in diligence. Also, if you have budget you can create an invoices@companyname.com like we did and have contractors send all invoices to the accountant to be paid by wire on the 1st and 15th.

Pay people on time. Trust is just like a bank account, earn a balance by doing simple things on time. Like us, you’re a startup, you’ll need that trust in the bank at some point. You’re already going to be VERY different than most businesses.

DOCUSIGN

Documents Signature Service. We use DocuSign.

Remember what I mentioned earlier about friction points? Printing, signing, scanning, and attaching are four physical steps. DocuSign is usually about three digital ones. We make it dead simple for investors, employees, and customers to sign things. We believe this increases success.

Bonus — all your signed documents are in one place for when diligence starts. We suggest picking one service and sticking with it. You will be tempted to churn the 30 day trials from DocuSign, HelloSign, and SendDoc. Don’t. If you do that, you’ll then have to piece all the docs together from each platform later. This isn’t doing more faster. This is rework.

Competitors that are also loved:

Zoho Docs. For due diligence docs. Like DocuSign but it keeps track of who accesses your shared folder and when. The con is that the recipients need to register as well.

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FILE SHARING

DRIVE

Put stuff in one place.

We TRY to put stuff in one place and keep it organized. If you succeed in doing this, tell us how. Google drive is awesome for internal docs and sheets, large files, etc.

Pro tip: use numbering first in a file name to order folders and keep the order constant. i.e. 100Finance, 200Sales, 300HR etc. You’ll be amazed at how much faster your file access will be due to location memory.

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CONCLUSION

We hope this is helpful. We hope you don’t have to struggle through what we did setting this up. We hope you Do More Faster (we now owe David Cohen and Brad Feld another dollar).

If you have your own Core SaaS setup you’ve found to be awesome, write up what the combos are, how much you spend monthly, and post it on Medium, we might link to it.

Thanks to Victor at CuePath and the Techstars Seattle 2017 class for their input.  

Interested in joining the Techstars worldwide network? Applications are now open – Apply








Let’s End the Stigma Around Mental Health

At Techstars, we talk about the mantra ‘founder first’, but being advocates of founders means we can’t only focus on the health of their companies – we must also focus on the health of the founder.

May is Mental Health Awareness month and Techstars is driving to end the stigma that surrounds mental health. Let’s open up the conversation around it and what it means to our community and industry.

When my first son was a teenager, he was challenged with depression and bipolar disorder. During his high school years, May meant the time of year when he really struggled. I found that being open and honest with my friends and family helped me, my son and others.

We encourage everyone to become educated on mental health and important issues around it. To kickoff the month, we put together a list of resources for anyone who thinks they may be suffering from mental health issues, or anyone who wants to learn more about the topic.

Throughout May, you will also be able to find insight on this topic from other founders and mentors on the Techstars blog.

You can’t #givefirst if you don’t put your own health first.

Do you have resources to add that can help others? Let us know here.

Mental Health America: Download this free Mental Health Toolkit and check out these mental health screening tools

AA: International fellowship of people who have had a drinking problem

Al-Anon: Network providing resources, strength and hope for families & friends of problem drinkers

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): Locates mental health resources by city

NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness

Ginger.io: A mobile platform with 24/7 care for stress, anxiety, and depression

Mental Health Works: Free monthly publication focused on mental health in the workspace. Includes ideas + tools to successfully implement mental health strategies

Failcon: Conference for startup founders to learn from and prepare for failure, so they can iterate and grow fast

TED Talks: Common TED Talks that focus on the topic of mental health

Fully Rich Life: A free toolkit for 21 ways to reduce stress and anxiety

Founder Stories: Suicide, Entrepreneurship and the Road Home

Female Founders: My startup failed and this is what it feels like

Fortune: Depression and Startups: The Emotional Toil of Entrepreneurship

Wired: One startup’s struggle to survive Silicon Valley’s Gold Rush

ParalignMaking mental well-being data driven, intelligent and personalized

Workit Health: An online addiction care program

TWLOHA: Find a list of local resources and a help hotline 

Koko: Koko offers services that help social networks manage crisis, abuse and bullying.

Crisis Text Line: Free, 24/7 line with trained crisis counselors

Support Groups Central: Video Conference-based Support Groups

Depression Recovery Groups: Support for depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety

SonderMind: Network of over 250 licensed therapists in the Denver-Boulder area

The Founder Institute Or How It Helped Me Stand Up To A Bully: Depression: post about what it was like to be diagnosed, but also how it wasn’t the end of the world… actually, it was the start of a new journey – the best one yet!

ZendyHealth: We can arrange a session with a credentialed, reputable therapist who provides affordable services at a practice near you. Our professionals will work with you to evaluate and develop a treatment plan to help manage your depression and/or anxiety.

Sigmend: Helping employees with brain (mental) disorders self advocate.

Impact Founder: An independent multimedia movement and community to reduce the feelings of isolation experienced in entrepreneurship.

Journey Meditation: Leads guided meditation programs in the workplace in a way that’s simple and approachable.








Diversity Resources for Startup Founders

In 2016, we committed to making diversity one of our key strategic priorities at Techstars.

As a part of this ongoing effort, check out our new video where we talk about why addressing diversity early in your company growth matters and how diverse perspectives fuel innovation.

Listen to our founders talk about how unconscious bias and pattern matching affected their fundraising efforts and how we can work together to change things.

Here are a few tools and resources to help get the conversation started at your company:

Do you know of other resources? Add them in the comments!

Watch the video:








Startup PR: 4 Ways to Get Started

Some companies coming out of a startup accelerator program might have a few million in revenue, established brand recognition, and solid brand loyalty from customers. But when it comes to building their brand and customer base, many are just getting started. 

These companies are often faced with one of three PR challenges:

    • Nobody knows about the company — you’re starting from scratch.
    • You’ve given PR a shot but were never able to build a drumbeat that truly raises awareness. (Perhaps you hired an agency and set $20k on fire before realizing it wasn’t going to be the right solution.)
    • You know you need PR because something big is coming up and you want to make a splash (funding, company launch, big partnership announcement, new product release, etc.).

No matter which of these buckets you fall into, there are a few different approaches you can take as you think through how to grow your brand – a critical component to customer acquisition, gaining investor attention, and growing market share.

PR is about third party validation. You can spend all the money in the world on advertising but — you’re selling yourself. It’s when you have someone else selling for you that people start to listen.

If you fall into one of these three buckets and you know that PR is something you need to “do,” there are four main options available to you, each with their own benefits and drawbacks.

1. Hire an agency.
Benefits are that you get a whole team working on our account, ranging from entry level “pitch pushers” to senior-level strategic counsel. PR agencies work with multiple clients at once so they are generally more aware of industry events and trends that they can help you to piggyback on. They have media databases for press research/targeting and established press contacts to tap into. On the downside, they’re expensive. And unless you work with a boutique firm that can get up and running on your business and technology quickly, you’re going to be paying a lot of money for results that may not meet your expectations. Startups fall victim to the lure of a big name agency time and again and are rarely ever satisfied.

2. Hire a freelancer.
Freelancers are typically less expensive than an agency (~$2k–$5k). If they’re local they can come into the office, join company meetings, and are generally accessible. Instead of a whole team you get one individual working on your account, but freelancers typically have multiple clients so you may find yourself fighting for attention. It’s one person, and they have to manage their time accordingly.

3. Hire in-house PR.
With in-house PR you have one person that is fully immersed in your brand. Going this route is generally less expensive than an agency, but more expensive than hiring a freelancer because you have the added cost of bringing on a FTE. With In-house PR, you typically have one person running your whole PR initiative, so they usually wear multiple hats. They can do your PR, run your social media efforts, develop internal comms, customer comms, etc. They can support the organization more widely and can play a key role as you scale your business.

4. Go it alone.
Early stage companies may not have budget to go with options #1-3. Founders are entrepreneurs. They know PR is something they “need” and they’re willing to put some skin in the game to see if they can make some progress on their own. It’s affordable. But PR is extremely time-consuming to do well, and most founders want and need to focus on building their business. They probably don’t have pre-established relationships with the press and it takes a lot of time and effort to build them.

No matter which route you choose, PR is an important initiative to help grow your business. Finding the right solution will depend on your stage of growth, budget, and how much time/effort you’re willing to invest.

See Sonya speak tonight at Changemaker Chats in Boulder! 








Las 25 reglas de oro para una reunión eficaz

Las reuniones son un mal necesario. Lamentablemente, muchas veces perdemos nuestro tiempo al tener muchas reuniones. La mayor causa es la falta de organización y priorización de nuestro tiempo y del equipo. En este artículo, te daremos 25 reglas de oro para una reunión eficaz.

Estas reglas básicas te ayudaran a tener una reunión eficaz y mejores resultados en todas tus reuniones.

¡Acuérdate de solo convocar a una reunión si realmente es necesario y no alargar las reuniones por más de una hora!

1, Checklist inicial para cada reunión

  1. Fecha y hora de la reunión.Listado - Reunión eficaz
  2. Ubicación de la reunión.
  3. Objetivos de la reunión:
    • Dar información
    • Motivar
    • Resolver conflictos
    • Buscar soluciones
    • Tomar decisiones
  4. Nombre de participantes o miembros del equipo.

Esto es lo mínimo que necesitas saber antes de organizar una reunión. También utiliza la regla de Las 2 Pizzas de Jeff Bezos:

“Si no puedes alimentar a un grupo con dos pizzas, probablemente el grupo es demasiado grande.”

Toma en cuenta que una reunión eficaz requiere del equipo necesario para que fluya la comunicación entre todos.

2, Antes de la reunión

Si tú eres la persona que está organizando la reunión, asegúrate de prepárate antes de llegar a hablar con tu equipo. No hay peor error que llegar a una reunión sin una agenda, rumbo o persona que lidere el proceso. Toma control de la reunión y asegúrate de seguir tu agenda.

Esto ayudara a que no pierdas el tiempo de tu equipo.

  1. La reunión tiene que tener objetivos definidos.
  2. Los participantes a asistir a la reunión han sido identificados.
  3. El horario de la reunión ha sido definido.
  4. La ubicación de la reunión ha sido establecida.
  5. Has creado una agenda para la reunión.
  6. Todo material necesario antes de la reunión ha sido enviado a los participantes.
  7. El lugar de reunión ha sido reservado, preparado y listo.

3, Durante la reunión

Sigue la agenda que hayas establecido. A menos de que surja un tema más importante donde tengas que tomar una decisión, trata de no desviarte con discusiones que no tengan que ver con los temas pre-establecidos en tu agenda.

El seguir tu agenda te ayudará a enfocar tu tiempo y esfuerzo para lograr tomar decisiones con tu equipo. Toma nota de todo lo que se decida durante las discusiones y puntos principales que se hayan establecido. Estas notas te ayudaran a resumir la reunión y priorizar los siguientes pasos.

  1. ¡La reunión empieza a TIEMPO!
  2. La agenda es revisada con el equipo.
  3. El propósito u objetivo de la reunión son establecidos.
  4. Utiliza los primeros minutos para aclarar los puntos fundamentales.
  5. La agenda es la base de las discusiones.
  6. Un tema es discutido a la vez.
  7. Una persona habla a la vez.
  8. Todos los participantes tienen oportunidad de dar su opinión.
  9. Responsabilidades son asignadas para cada tarea.
  10. Se establecen fechas para cada tarea.
  11. Fecha, lugar y hora son establecidos para la siguiente reunión.
  12. La reunión termina en el tiempo establecido.
  13. Todos los participantes terminan la reunión sabiendo los siguientes pasos.

4, Después de la reunión

Asegúrate de dar un seguimiento después de la reunión. Envía un email oReunión eficazmemo con los puntos claves discutidos y las decisiones o tareas identificadas. Esto te ayudara a darle seguimiento a los temas pendientes y que todos los participantes tengan establecido quienes son responsables de cada tarea.

  1. Todos los participantes reciben un memo con los pasos a seguir en las siguientes 24 horas.
  2. Toda área o discusión que haya quedado pendiente se agenda para la siguiente reunión.
  3. Se delega y da seguimiento a todas las tareas asignadas.

Estas 25 reglas de oro te ayudaran a tener una reunión eficaz con tu equipo. Sigue estos pasos y veraz como obtener mejores resultados de todas tus reuniones.








70 Awesome Tools for Growth Hacking and Bootstrapping your Startup

This post compiles an overview of some of the favourite tools and resources for bootstrapping a startup and employing growth hacking tactics. So, these tools will help you work faster and smarter to get your Startup off the ground. They can also help your team to boost the process during and after a Startup Weekend. So, have a look at these tools first to know best which tool to use when.

70 Awesome Tools for Growth Hacking and Bootstrapping your Startup

Most of the tools mentioned are free or at least have free trials, allowing you to familiarize yourself with the product in advance and add significant value to your startup projects.

Keep on track

So, you want to build your own startup? First of all keep yourself accountable for making progress on your startup:

Generate and organize your ideas

If you have no idea yet, get inspired by watching these 50 Groundbreaking Startup Ideas from Twitter, Airbnb to Evernote and many more.

  • germ.io  lets you capture every eureka moment and very idea and take it through to execution
  • MindNode Pro or MindMeister helps you mindmapping your ideas

Get a name

Is your choosen name available on all services and social media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Reddit..)?

  • Namecheckr Check domain & social username availability across multiple networks

Design your Business Model – Lean Methodology Sources

  • Business Model Canvas a strategic management and entrepreneurial tool to describe, design, challenge, invent, and pivot your business idea
  • Ash Maurya’s Lean Canvas is similar to Business Model Canvas but outlines a more problem focused approach targeting entrepreneurs and startup businesses
  • Experiment Board Use the lean validation/experiment board to describe, validate and refine your business idea.

Find a co-founder or outsource specific tasks

If you haven’t found a co-founder at Startup Weekend you can use these sites to find a buddy. Or if your team does not have all the skills needed you can outsource specific tasks:

  • CoFoundersLab Find a co-founder for your startup in any city, any industry
  • Founder2be Another online platform that helps to find a co-founder
  • oDesk Find freelancers on oDesk
  • Fiverr  is the marketplace for creative & professional services
  • Elance Find rated web developers, mobile programmers, designers, writers, translators, marketing pros, virtual assistants and more
  • 99designs is the world’s largest online marketplace for design
  • legal Connects startups with qualified specialists to help solve their legal issue

Do Market Research and Customer Validation

  • Statista is a leading international statistics portal on the internet
  • SimilarWeb Analyze your competitors’ traffic and identify growth opportunities
  • Use Moat for real-time, multi-platform marketing & ad analysis of your competitors
  • Google Trends Check the currently trending topic or find the search trend for any keyword of your choice
  • SEMRush Find the Most Shared Content and Key Influencers
  • SurveyMonkey and Google Forms is the simple way to create surveys for customer validation
  • KeywordTool.io is the best free alternative to Google Keyword Planner

Pitch your Startup Idea

Build your MVP – Prototyping, Mockups & Wireframing

Tools that help you build your Minimum Viable Product (MVP):

  • QuickMVP help you to test your ideas, without wasting time or money
  • Optimizely One optimization platform for websites and mobile apps (A/B testing etc.)
  • Marvel a free prototyping and collaboration tool that lets designers transform their files into interactive, sharable prototypes viewable on any device
  • POP transforms your paper sketches into click-through prototypes in minutes
  • Instapage Build fully-functional landing pages on the fly
  • Proto.io is enabling users to create fully interactive mobile app prototypes
  • UI Faces Find and generate sample avatars for user interfaces
  • Balsamiq Mockups is a wireframing tool
  • Moqups is a HTML5 app for creating resolution-independent SVG mockups & wireframes
  • Pixate allows you to create sophisticated animations and interactions for mobile

Get your Design ready

Do Marketing, Social Media & Blogging

  • Buffer is a easy way to publish on social media
  • Hootsuite Best Social media dashboard tool which let you manage all social media channels from single dashboard
  • Mailchimp An email marketing solution to manage contacts, send emails and track results
  • Aweber email marketing software for bloggers which offers email automation, personalisation and offers pre-built template to send beautiful Email newsletter
  • Buzzsumo Analyze what content performs best for any topic or competitor.
  • Portent Content idea generator

Do Cost Calculation and Finance

Startup Stock Photos

Organize yourself and your team, collaborate digital

  • Slack will bring all your communication together in one place through real-time messaging
  • Trello Keeps track of everything and manage your To-Dos
  • Evernote collect and organize your ideas, notes and inspiration
  • Yanado Tasks management inside Gmail
  • IFTTT  helps you to automate business processes and gives control over apps you love
  • Wetransfer Free transfer up to 2GB
  • Dropbox Free space up to 2GB
  • Drp.io Free, fast, private and easy image and file hosting.
  • Asana is a handy project management tool that helps you keep your team and your projects organized in one place
  • Basecamp project management tool that allows different teams to seamlessly collaborate.

 

Still lacking some tool to get your startup off the ground? Check out this and this site for even more resources and tools! What other resources allow startups to work faster and smarter? Do you have other suggestions for the Startup Weekend teams? Feel free to tweet any ideas to @SWWHH2015 or me directly @contenthorizon.

 








A Resource List Every Edtech Entrepreneur Should Have

This post was updated on April 13, 2015

This list was compiled for a presentation I gave at a conference last month focused on building an edtech venture in the United States. It’s meant to be a brief synopsis of some of the key steps you should take, as well as some of the key players you should know about. If you find it helpful, leave a comment saying so. If you think important items are missing, please share them. Hopefully this can be something we all contribute to, in order to create a more comprehensive list of resources and opportunities that edtech entrepreneurs can benefit from.

Note: Edsurge, Imagine K12, and 4.0 Schools are official partners of Education Entrepreneurs

Screen-Shot-2015-04-13-at-7.25.52-PM Screen-Shot-2015-04-13-at-7.44.02-PM Screen-Shot-2015-04-13-at-7.26.29-PM Screen-Shot-2015-04-13-at-7.26.50-PM Screen-Shot-2015-04-13-at-7.27.00-PM

If you liked this article, you may also like 5 Things You Can Do at Startup Weekend Education That You Can’t Do Anywhere Else

More about Education Entrepreneurs

Education Entrepreneurs is the largest initiative in the world focused on helping people use entrepreneurship to improve education. Its suite of offerings include Startup Weekend Education, Startup Digest Education, Workshops, online resources, and a global network of Community Leaders. Spanning six continents, Education Entrepreneurs has created an unprecedented opportunity for anyone, anywhere to shape the future of education.

 

 








10 tips for returning to work after maternity leave

If you’ve recently had a new baby, the thought of returning to work after maternity leave can be incredibly daunting. Sure, you might be looking forward to gaining some independence once again but waving goodbye to those blissful mother/baby days is likely to pull on your heartstrings. That said, knowing the facts about becoming a working mother can make the transition a lot easier, so here are ten things to bear in mind:

1. Same job, same terms and conditions

Whether you found your position through a job site like CCJM or via a friend, you have the general right to return to the same role after maternity leave on the same terms and conditions. If this is not possible due to company changes you have the right to be offered a similar job on terms and conditions at least as good. Moreover, if your role no longer exists you should be given an alternative vacancy or offered redundancy pay.

2. Right to a pay rise

When you’re on maternity leave you still have the right to receive any pay rises or improvements in terms and conditions for your job. Your employer should inform you of these changes and make you aware of developments to the business.

3. Keeping in touch

It’s the duty of your employer to keep you informed about other goings on within the company too including opportunities for promotion and job vacancies. You can also work ten Keeping in Touch (KIT) days while on maternity leave without losing maternity pay or benefits or ending your leave.

4. Holidays

Your holiday entitlement will continue to build up while you’re on leave, so you can either add this to the end of your maternity leave period or take your holidays separately when you return to work. It’s worth talking to your employer, however, in case you need to use them up by a specific date.

5. Flexible working

As a parent, you’re entitled to ask for a flexible working pattern, although you must have been with your employer for at least 26 weeks to request this. While you have the right to ask for it, your employer can also refuse to offer it you should it negatively impact the performance of the company.

6. Parental leave

If you’ve completed at least one year’s service for your current employer you’re entitled to 13 weeks’ unpaid leave up to your child’s fifth birthday (or up to 18 weeks for a disabled child up to their 18th birthday).

7. Reasonable time off for emergencies

Parental leave is not the same as taking time off to deal with an emergency. If you child falls ill or your childcare arrangements go wrong at the last minute, you are allowed reasonable time off to deal with the issue.

8. Right to breastfeed

If you want to continue breastfeeding after returning to work, you have every right to do so and your employer should make allowances for you to express/feed throughout the working day. They should also provide somewhere for a breastfeeding employee to rest and this includes being able to lie down. You’ll find plenty more information regarding breastfeeding at work here.

9. You’re not alone

Feel alone? Then why not talk to other mums about their experience of returning to work after having a baby? Making friends and chatting about your issues can improve your mood and help you to feel far less afraid or alone in the workplace.

10. A quick call to the babysitter can work wonders

If you’re feeling anxious or worried about how your child is getting on while you’re at work, a quick call to the babysitter or nursery can work wonders. Your little one might have been crying when you dropped them off but there’s a high chance they would have perked up when you left, so don’t be afraid to call in now and again.

Heading back to work is not always easy, but knowing the facts and opening up to colleagues can make all the difference.








More Than a Logo: Applying the Concept of Branding to Your Firm

When somebody mentions a brand, we immediately recall certain visual aspects of it. Whenever Michelin is mentioned, it brings a vivid picture of the Michelin Man and if one mentions Nike, the Swoosh logo comes to mind. But the how does one build a brand? What does it entail? Is only making a good logo enough? All businesses have their own logos but we tend to remember only a few of them. So, what else is needed to be done to build a brand? It is not about how much you can spend but how creative and effective you are in your communication. For instance, some of the most famous logos were designed for a pittance while others cost millions.

A successful brand defines the business. It is not only the mere logo or a catchy tagline. In fact, the brand is inseparable from the overall identity of the business and in case you cannot develop a recognizable brand, the business will never take off the way your desire. So, let’s look at the key aspects of branding that you must apply to your business.

Brand Association

The immediately visible components of the brand create the initial image in the mind of the consumer. Branding begins with the very name of the business itself. Choosing the right name is the first step in creating a connection with the customer and forging a lasting relationship that stands the test of time.

The logo plays an important role but there is more to it. The tagline, the advertisements, the websites, the stores, everything combines to create that certain image. For instance, when you visit the Apple store, it gives you that sense of cutting edge technology. You also feel the same when you visit their website or use their mobile app. So, these components are not independent and random. They are well thought out and consistent with each other. They have been developed to evoke a particular feeling in the minds of the consumers towards the brand.

Brand Positioning

No brand can appeal to everybody. Different people have different choices and a successful brand knows its target audience. They also know how to attract this target population and that is what we know as brand positioning. A good example here is Miller Lite Beer. It was not an instant success as its key segment of beer drinking males considered the “light beer” to lack machismo. Miller Lite’s game-changer, however, was  the iconic “Tastes Great, Less Filling” advertisements. It basically said that it tastes the same as any good beer but is less filling as it is “light” and hence one can drink more. The actual product remained the same, but a simple tweak in brand messaging made it the most popular brand in that segment. This is how you need to position a brand for maximum impact.

Brand Personality

An extension of the above point is the brand personality. The brand needs to cultivate a personality that is acceptable for its target audience. For instance, a soda–like Pepsi–is more likely to attract a younger demographic. So, over the years it has cultivated a youthful personality by using sports, music and film stars. In comparison, its competitor Coca Cola focuses on human relationships and tries to deliver a larger message through its advertisements, just to show that it is one of the oldest brands that can almost be considered a symbol of American values. Both have different treatments but both are hugely successful.

Brand Promise

Through various branding and promotional activities, a brand promises a certain outcome to the consumer. For example, Virgin is seen as genuine and contemporary, but it also promises to be reasonably priced and not too expensive. So, when someone thinks of Virgin, they expect a fun service or product at a reasonable price. But a new brand must assess itself and figure out what it can deliver before making any promises. It is better not to promise than promising and failing to deliver.

Brand Story

Finally, as branding progresses over time, a story develops around the brand. It is partly based on facts and partly on the associations that people draw. But there must be a story that people can relate to. For example, check this video by Go Pro. It tells us how the brand developed and what motivated them. It also explains what the product can do and why people love it. Such storytelling is an essential component of brand building, as it adds to the brand image and so it must be planned and cultivated carefully.

Final Thoughts

Branding is not difficult to understand, but very difficult to implement. It is more of an art rather than science and so one cannot just imitate other brands. Every business must come up with its own strategy to build its brand; effective branding helps startups differentiate themselves in the market that is replete with competition and established players. It not only takes foresight and planning but also requires consummate communication skills to convey the qualities of a brand and make people believe in the same.

Nick Rojas is a business consultant and writer who lives in Los Angeles. He has consulted small and medium-sized enterprises for over twenty years. He has  contributed articles to Visual.ly, Entrepreneur, and TechCrunch. You can follow him on Twitter @NickARojas, or you can reach him at NickAndrewRojas@gmail.com.








Fondeadora y UP Latam

Te presentamos a nuestro nuevo aliado: Fondeadora, la primera plataforma de crowdfunding en México cuyo objetivo es democratizar el acceso al capital, ofreciendo a cada persona la oportunidad de financiar sus ideas a través de una plataforma en internet.

Crowdfunding

¿Cómo funciona eso?

El crowdfunding se ha convertido en una dinámica mundial, que permite a proyectos creativos, innovadores y con impacto recibir el capital que necesitan a través de pequeñas o grandes aportaciones de individuos.

En Fondeadora no se trata de conseguir inversionistas. Tampoco de conseguir personas que te presten dinero. Como creador, tu eres el propietario y puedes controlar el desarrollo de tu idea. Lo único que debes hacer es reconocer a tus fondeadores con recompensas relacionadas con la idea que deseas financiar.

¿Quien lo puede utilizar?

Lo que comenzó siendo una opción muy interesante para el desarrollo de ideas creativas, sociales o culturales, ha empezado a llegar también a las ideas de negocio, ya que las plataformas de crowdfunding han popularizado entre la gente que puede acceder a productos de manera exclusiva por medio de la modalidad de pre-compra.  Cada vez son más los emprendedores y las startups que recurren al crowdfunding como una forma de lograr unos apoyos iniciales para lanzar al mercado el producto que han ideado.

En Fondeadora, no aplicamos filtros, es decir, aceptamos todo tipo de proyectos (mientras sea legal), desde tu proyecto de negocio de chapulines hasta el desarrollo de tu nueva nave espacial.

proyectos exitosos fondeadora

¿Por qué nació esta alianza?

UP Latam y Fondeadora tienen un objetivo en común: darte más oportunidades para convertir tus ideas en proyectos concretos. UP Latam lo hace a través de programas y eventos, como Startup Weekend y Startup Next y Fondeadora lo hace a través de su plataforma de fondeo colectivo. Nos interesa impulsar la innovación, la creación y el emprendimiento, dándote las herramientas necesarias para materializar tus proyectos creativos.

Para saber más acerca del crowdfunding:

Fondeadora estará publicando un post mensual en el blog de UP Latam, a fin de hablarte de las tendencias mundiales del crowdfunding, los diferentes modelos y ventajas de cada uno, las diferentes plataformas que puedes utilizar, y sobre todo, darte los mejores tips para realizar tu propia campaña de crowdfunding.